Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fall Into Darkness

Okay, so the title of this post technically refers to the title of my favorite Christopher Pike book that I read in middle school (which I recently learned, while channel surfing early one Sunday morning, was made into a movie in '96). Although I highly recommend the book (if you want to pretend you are an angst ridden fourteen year old), what I really want to talk about is nail polish. I know I have previously written about the amazing makeover qualities that a quick paint job can do, but this time I want to focus specifically on dark nails.

One of my favorite things about the impending Autumn, is that I get to break out my dark nail polish and lipstick. As much as I love neons, bright pinks and blues, and other non traditional colors, there is something refreshing about inky fingertips, so you can bet that I was super excited when I finally felt the time was right to paint my nails with one of my favorite fall colors: OPI's "Lincoln Park After Dark."

In the picture it looks almost black, but it is really a great dark deep purple. And, if you follow fashion trends as closely as I do, you know that purple is big this fall (okay, it is big almost every fall), so you can imagine the excitement I felt when I brought back my deep shades to wear as soon as Labor Day passed. Who cares about white shoes, it is all about the fingernails.

However, is no recent obsession. Beyond collecting a vast array of colors, I have loved dark polish since 1994 when Chanel's "Vamp" hit the makeup counters (I got the last bottle at Nordrstrom during the initial craze, and it is still sitting in my nail polish drawer. Sounds gross, but the new formula of Vamp is just not the same.) Since then, my dark polish collection has expanded (What? You are not surprised?) to include the following colors on my "favorites" list:

OPI "Lincoln Park After Dark"
Chanel "Black Satin"
Chanel "Blue Satin"
OPI "Russian Navy"

Well, what are you waiting for? Join me as I "Plum It!"* nails first into Fall.

*Sally Hansen Fall Collection.  In fact, while a bit delayed, Sally Hansen has their own version of almost all my favorite colors for $6. Check your local drugstore, the Fall Collection should have its own display.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Dr. Is In

The last time I laced up a pair of Dr Martens, I was in the seventh grade. I had two pairs - suede blue low tops as well as the ankle an incredibly 1990s, loud and outrageous flower pattern.

I spent $114 on them, using a gift certificate to Nordstrom's that I received for my Bat Mitzvah. I had been eying them for months, but in 1995, $114 was a lot of money to spend, especially on a pair of shoes. That's right, it has been 13 years since my 13 yr-old self slipped her feet into those clunky boots that, despite their ugliness, were extremely desirable.

When I was wearing my flowered Docs, I thought I was the coolest. Well, as cool as any awkward seventh grader could be, I guess. But the trend faded fast and pretty soon my shoes were so out that they became nothing but a surface on which dust collected in the back of my closet. Eventually, the blue shoes were donated to charity, but the thought of discarding my flowered boots made me sad and nostalgic. I convinced myself that I would wear them again, hoping that maybe they would come back into fashion. But time passed, the dust layers thickened, and I had yet to wear my British imports.

After graduating college and moving to New York, every time I came home, I was asked what I wanted to do with my shoes. (My parents are constantly looking to clean out my closet so it is no longer a shrine to my middle and high school self.) And every time that my mother questioned my reasoning for keeping them (Are you ever going to wear them again?), I insisted that one day I would feel cool enough to do so.

Finally, after picking up the September issue of Teen Vogue (true, I am no longer a teenager, but the looks in Teen Vogue are far more accessible - yet barely so! - than those in Vogue), and reading their Fall A - Z style guide, I learned of the fact that Dr. Martens were making a comeback. This realization brought me nothing but hope, and that perhaps I would at least be given the push to clean off my boots and make some space for them in my New York City closet.

In further attempts to assuage my fears of stepping out in such statement boots, I scoured the internet to see if I could find any reference to my Docs. Unfortunately, Dr. Martens no longer produces the style I own, but I did manage to find a few ebayers that were selling my exact pair. According to one seller, my shoes were worn by Sienna Miller in Nylon, and are rare enough to be auctioned at the buy it now price of $300. While this does not tempt me to try to sell my vintage kicks, it further inspires me to take the plunge, bring them out of their thirteen year retirement, and back into wardrobe rotation.

While the weather is not yet brisk enough to take my Dr. Martens out for a test drive, I am eagerly awaiting the day that I walk out on the New York City streets rocking my flowered boots, some sort of black dress and tights ensemble, finished with my new fabulous leather motorcycle jacket. I have recently been feeling the urge to update my current style, and I think these shoes will ultimately be the prescription that will cure my fashion rut.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Greek Godtressess

In the Fourth Grade, after reading D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, I became obsessed with Greek Mythology. I mean, when else can you dress up as Demeter wearing a bed sheet toga and a headband adorned with plastic leaves without the suggestion of psychiatric help? Sigh, the memories. Now that I am an adult, my idea of Grecian inspired fashion has manifested itself into drape-y gowns, long dresses, and braids. Oh how I love braids!

I have alluded to my affinity for plaits in my post on headbands, and I stand behind the belief that there is nothing greater than a braid/band combination. As you know, I have written about humidity acting like Medusa towards my hair, and have since then discovered a Greek inspired hairdo that combats against its damage as would the warrior Perseus. And while I was somewhat influenced by the recent visibility of celebrities donning Heidi braids, my take is a twist on the typical country 'do, and instead, is a little more ethereal.

My interpretation of this braided hairstyle is the perfect option for shorter, finer hair. While the Heidi--over the crown--braids are great for long, thick hair, mine just does not have enough length or volume to make the proper impact. So, rather than pulling the braids over my head, I pull them under. Below you will hopefully find a helpful, step-by-step picture guide, to give you a clear idea of the process in creating this sweet and practical look.

1) Whether you part your hair in the middle or side, create two even sections of hair

2) Braid each side

3) Pull one braid under your head and pin

3) Pull the other over, and also secure with bobby pin

4) Add a headband to cover the hairties and ends, pin, and voila!

I love this hairdo because it is incredibly easy to create (takes no more than 10 minutes, even for a perfectionist like me), is much more polished than just pigtail braids or a ponytail, and looks completely put together despite how simple it is to do. It's a little taste of Mount Olympia, no supernatural powers required.

About Face

Contrary to popular belief, I hate buying makeup at department stores. It is like walking into a war zone, attacked from all angles by sales professionals armed with weapons of perfumed tear gas and sharpened makeup brushes. Each counter is a land mine, with the possibility of a surprise attack lurking around every corner. For this reason, I prefer not to purchase products from large retailers. Unfortunately, my love of luxury products (and my employee discount), compel me to buy certain basics such as mascara, foundation, and many a lipstick at a department store. However, when it comes to the staples of my beauty routine, I am just as much a patron of Duane Reade as Bloomingdale's.

A sufferer of acne throughout my teens, I have used a multitude of prescription and over-the-counter products, with my only success resulting from Accutane. It was not until I reached my mid-20s, that I determined my most effective skincare regimen came quite cheaply.

Let me first state a disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist. I do not know your skin type. I just know what works for me and that it works well - so I'm sharing my experience, hopefully for your benefit. That being said, here are my favorite (and inexpensive!) beauty products:

1) Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash: It is orange. It is just under $8. You can get it at any drugstore. And it works. My skin has never looked better.
2) Neutrogena Healthy Skin Lotion w/ SPF: Sunscreen is key. It's not too greasy either, especially for my combination skin. It's around $14, but, even with everyday use, usually lasts a long time.
3) Johnson & Johnson Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment: The commercials don't lie when they say 100% (yes, that's right!) of people in clinical testing showed improvement within a day. It's about $8 and it effectively eliminates surprise breakouts.

My last drugstore obsession coincides with my infatuation with lip products: balms, glosses, sticks. You name it, I've tried it. As a younger girl, I had quite the Lip Smacker collection. But that doesn't surprise you, I'm sure. If a new lip product was marketed, I had to have it. (Does anyone remember the chocolate flavored glosses from The Body Shop?) If it was innovative, made lips glossy, or hell even just made them smell, I bought it.

As I got a little older, I was swayed less by the novelty of a product, and more by claims of being a great lip balm. I moved from Chapstick to Lip Medex to Kiehl's to Rosebud Salve. And while all of these are pretty good (Rosebud would be my top choice), none of these products come close to how great my favorite lip balm is, and you can get it at the drugstore for $3.50! Behold Palmer's Cocoa Butter Stick. It smells great, feels amazing, and, like many lip balms are, it is not addictive. Sure, it looks more like a glue stick than anything, but I'll take the stupid observations over dry lips any day.

The bottom line is this: I love luxury products. Unfortunately, expensive skincare is not in my budget, and most of the time I find that the effort (and body armor) it takes to find a product worthy of its insane price tag is much more than I'm willing to commit. Instead, I have proven that you don't have to spend lots of cash to get great skin and soft lips. Sometimes a simple regimen is all you need. Now, don't you feel just a little more...

At Ease?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Arts & Crafty 101

As a kid, I was totally into arts and crafts. In school, at camp, in the home, wherever, whenever. In fact, there was a brief period during my childhood where I proclaimed that I was going to be an artist. You know, as a career. I loved to draw and paint, I even dabbled in lanyard key chains and friendship bracelets. For awhile there, I actually felt I had some talent. Soon enough, however, my little girl dreams were brutally crushed when I learned the unfortunate fate that befell most artists: poverty. At the time, I probably couldn't even comprehend what it meant not to make any money, but based on the tone of my parents' voices when they explained this to me, I came to the conclusion that it was not a path I would want to take.

Despite no longer yearning to be an artist, I did not lose my creative tendencies, but rather, I began to channel them into different mediums - clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry. I found a way to express my creativity through fashion, and instead dreamt of becoming another kind of artist. I considered many options, from writing about fashion, to personal shopping, even styling. I have toyed with all of these ideas, but one recently stood out to me as the perfect opportunity to put my latent artistic talents to work.

As an accessories freak, I tend to look for fun jewelry at stores like H&M, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters in order to build my collection without depleting my bank account. Sure, it's not the best quality, but it's inexpensive, and I can get the look of gold jewelry at a good price. However, because cheap "gold" jewelry is nothing but painted metal, the longer you own it, the more it loses color and starts to look like silver instead.

In the past few weeks, two pairs of my earrings were getting to be so faded, that they resembled nothing of their former selves: what used to be shiny gold looked instead like dull, gray, sadness. ::Pause for dramatic effect:: The choice was clear: my cheap earrings were in need of a serious makeover. See, that's the other great thing about not investing in jewelry. When you purchase something for $5, you lose that squeamish feeling at the thought of getting a little experimental. The task is simple, all you need is a few minutes, and a few bottles of nail polish. (And we all know how I have more than that!)

About a month ago, in a discussion with a friend of mine when wearing one of my lackluster pairs of earrings, I spoke to how I was most likely going to revive the muted metal by coating it in gold nail polish. My friend, being ever so crafty herself, explained that I did not necessarily have to stick to just gold, but that I could paint them however I damn well pleased. Poetic license, if you will.

So guess what? That is exactly what I did. I brought out some neon polish, a little glossy topcoat, and created my very own masterpiece:

Now, if that is not modern art, I am not sure what is. Class dismissed.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Step (It) Up, To Bat

We live in an age of artificial enhancement. You can fix almost any aspect of yourself that you find fault with, which, in turn leads people to constantly pose the question: "Are those real?" Even I am no stranger to such an inquisition.

Get your mind out of the gutter, people. I'm talking about my eyelashes.
Sure, when it comes to the debate between what is real and what is fake, one's eyelashes don't normally figure into the picture. Or so I thought. Sure, I know how easily one can waltz into a drugstore and purchase false lashes, but I never thought it could be possible for someone to assume that those same people would want to put that kind of effort into their everyday routine. I mean, I get it if you want to dress up your make up for a special occasion, hell, even for just a regular night on the town. But to work?

Let's get this straight. I love makeup. I like experimenting with different looks and I am not afraid of color. But the idea of having to apply false lashes every day before work sounds incredibly tedious. And if you know me at all, you know that laziness is one of my best qualities.

Okay, I am not going to deny the fact that I have naturally long eyelashes just to sell you some product. But they are blonde and you can't see them. As a self diagnosed makeup maven, I'm telling you, if you want the look of fake lashes without the effort of applying the real thing, just follow my two simple beauty rules:

1) Always use an eyelash curler
2) Follow with a single application of Yves Saint Laurent Volume Effet Faux Cils mascara (on both top and bottom lashes)

TRUST ME. I have sold tons of my friends (and random strangers) on this mascara. It works. It's the best. I have used a over dozen different brands and formulas, and this is the only one I've stayed loyal to for years.

Many of my friends have expressed a fear of using an eyelash curler. You know what I say to that? Get over it. You must not be afraid of the eyelash curler. It is not your enemy, it is your friend. Sure there is the slight possibility you might pinch some of your eyelid, so be extra careful. A steady hand is key. Don't be nervous, and you'll be surprised how much easier it is than you anticipated. If you are too scared, however, I refuse to be held accountable if the mascara alone does not do your eyes justice.

Okay, so that was a lot of talk. You are probably asking for me to provide proof that these two simple rules are truly the key to flirty eye makeup. So, if you still don't believe me, I have provided the following evidence.

Exhibit A: Yes, I like dramatic, winged black eyeliner

Exhibit B: A better view

And finally...

Exhibit C: Just in case you are yet to be convinced

And with that. I rest my case. Batter up!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An Outfit Not Waisted is Just a Wasted Outfit

It's official: I am totally into belts, they are my new crush. I can't stop thinking about them. How to wear them. Where to wear them. What to wear them with. And ultimately, that I could use some more. I mean, think about it: you and a belt could have the perfect inanimate relationship. A belt is good looking, quiet (yet can speak volumes about your sense of style), and it gives just the right amount of hug.

In high school, and even into college, I thought of belts as just a friend. You know, the kind you turn to when you need--dare I say--a pick me up. They were function over fashion, and they bored me. You also have to know that I wasn't really into cultivating my personal style until I moved to New York City, so the idea of experimenting with accessories other than basic jewelry did not enter my field of vision. Not as if belts actually worked with sweatpants anyway. Ha.

I was trying to think back to when I first started dating the belt. I couldn't really remember, but I think it was prompted by my first love - my green Gucci. It is kelly green, perforated leather, shiny gold buckle, and was on sale at Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets. I begged my father to buy it for me, promising I wouldn't ask for anything else...that day. When he gave in, I was delighted. I found any way to squeeze it into an outfit, wearing it as often as I could. And just like that, I was hooked.

From there, my collection grew. I picked up Linea Pelle and Theory belts at sample sales. Random nautical striped elastic belt on sale at Big Drop. I turned a long Pucci scarf into one, and bought a brown distressed belt from H&M. Of course, there is also the dePalma belt from the flea market. I belted cardigans. Wore them with pencil skirts. The whole nine yards.

Another great thing about the belt, is that there are so many varieties. You can't have any one "type." You can fall in love with a waist belt, a ribbon belt, a low slung hip belt, a feminine belt, or even the studded, grommeted, bad boy that your mom told you to stay away from, kind of belt. With so many choices, it is nearly impossible to get bored.

Just over Memorial Day weekend, I bought this Michael Stars dress which, while it does have a shape, looks even more perfect and put together with something at the waist. Since being purchased, I have worn the dress three times, changing up the belt and shoes at each wear. I'm obsessed. And you want to know the best part? You get to decide when you are so over them, and they can't dump you first.

Now, if only men were this easy to work with.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Small Idea

As a girl, you most likely own at least one tiny purse. It's what you use when going out at night, and a big bulky shoulder bag just won't do. Then again, maybe you take the chance, and risk knocking into someone's drink with your ginormous handbag. You know, the one that also doubles as an instrument for hitting unwanted suiters. (I've never actually done this, but I bet it's pretty effective.)

If either of the two scenarios above sound familiar to you, then I have something you just might find useful. I've been promoting the ID/business card case since sophomore year of college as both an alternative means to a wallet, or just as a neat way to store your important cards for quick access in the black hole of your handbag.

If you couldn't already guess, I happen to have a few small purses. And, as a girl that likes to carry her life around with her (Life = iPod, phone, makeup, money, metrocard, license), I struggle with fitting everything into my little bag. Or, for the times that I do decide to lug my duffel-like purse with me out to bars, I prefer to know exactly where to find the most important items.

While they can't accommodate an extremely large amount of cards (especially credit), I have been able to fit my metrocard, license, and at least a credit card or two in my ID case, pictured above. I would suggest that you could squeeze some cash inside, but it really doesn't hold much. When carrying a smaller bag, I use the case to store my cards and license, and have the bills I need loose in my bag, or in an inside pocket. This way, there is plenty of room for the rest of my things, as it's barely larger than my iPod nano. (Yes, it's true, the nano was also purchased with my teensy purses in mind. Is it that obvious?)

On an average day, when I carry my much larger purse, the case makes it super quick to access my metrocard, or even business cards if I need them. It sits in an internal pocket (almost any large bag comes with a few for cell phones) where I can see it, so I don't have to dig around the cavernous inside. Not to mention it fits easily in a pants or jacket pocket if you decide to ditch the purse altogether. But best of all, you get to listen to all your friends "Oooh" and "Aahh" when they realize how ingenious you are for thinking of such a cute and alternative way to use a business card case. Now, doesn't that feel good?

For a personal touch, find a metal case with room for engraving your name or initials. A monogram can be done by machine in only a few minutes in the diamond district, for about $12!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'Band Aid

I hate my hair. That is right, there are times that I have wished I had the guts and the self confidence to go ahead and shave my head. Okay, so that's a little of an exaggeration, but on those bad hair days when it seems like I just can't make it look anything near acceptable, I figure it would be easier if I didn't have any.

Humidity is my hair's kryptonite. If there is any hint of moisture in the air, my hair recoils in fear, and, as if under Medusa's evil stare, turns to hay. No amount of weapons can protect me, not a ceramic flat iron, not Frizz Ease, and while using Kerastase was the closest my hair got to perfection, the price tag was far from it.

In attempts to ease the frustration of getting ready on rainy mornings, I would tie my hair back in a messy bun, because a ponytail that turns from straight to coarse-like waves during my commute to work was the furthest thing from pretty. After awhile, however, I became bored with this routine, and was determined to find a way to turn my bad hair days into something along the lines of "just not as cute as usual" hair days.

One afternoon, as I was getting ready to meet my friend for a walk around Central Park, I had a hair epiphany. Okay, so like most things in my life, it was really a by-product of my laziness. See, I hadn't taken my regular evening shower, and as the walk was a last minute plan, I didn't have time in the morning to take one either. There I was, with borderline greasy hair, and no clue what to do about it.

So, I just started to braid it. Two pigtail braids. To hide the roots where the grease would soon show, I wore a headband. I had recently purchased the cotton one from American Apparel, and I slid that over my head. Sure, I kind of looked like I was going to work out, but I also thought it looked kind of cute. (The cute half was later confirmed when I tried my new look out at work, so wipe those "She's delusional" notions out of your head.)

And there began my slippery descent into the world of headbands.

For some, the headband may remind them of their childhood, wearing thick or thin bands of fabric adorned with glitter and/or bows, or the plastic ones with the teeth that left comb marks in our hair and excruciating pain behind our ears. Since then, the headband has evolved and has become more than just a way to tame the mane on humid days, but rather a fun accessory to add some color or personality to what may be an otherwise simple outfit.

Now that I have discovered their multi-purpose use, I have found many more ways to style my hair. While I have to pin many of them in (which requires wearing my hair in either a straight or side ponytail, or even a messy bun), the plastic ones look cute sitting atop my hair when it is worn down.

To get a similar look, here is my current list of head-wear favorites:

For a funky edge, I adore this plastic one by Marc by Marc Jacobs, but it's definitely a splurge. However, I found a great silver faux snakeskin one at Century 21 for less than $4!

To add a little sunshine to a rainy day, American Apparel has a few different styles in a large array of colors. Personally, I love both the shiny and the lame in bold hues such as fuchsia or turquoise.

If you are looking for function over form, in addition to the cotton one from American Apparel that first launched my obsession, Goody has "no slide" products that are great for working out or running errands.

For those that think incorporating headbands into their lifestyle may not sound very practical, exciting, or maybe it seems like too much of a hassle, just think: What would Blair Waldorf do?

I don't know about you, but I love a good Gossip Girl challenge.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Comfort, To a Tee

In my opinion, nothing says effortless style like the T-Shirt dress. It's simple, it's classic, it's easy, and most importantly, it's comfortable. I am the ultimate champion of comfort. In fact, twice in my life, once in middle school and again during sophomore year of college, I only wore sweatpants. That's right, sweatpants. Day in, day out. Sure, I was probably mocked behind my back, but I was happy.

With leggings having made a comeback, and dresses even more versatile than ever, it is now possible to be both fashionable and comfortable at the same time. The T-Shirt dress, to me, is the epitome of this melding between style and ease. You can dress it up or down, accessorize it however you want, and still feel like you are in your favorite tank top and jeans. My current obsession is from American Apparel. I've worn it to bars, to work, even just walking around on the weekends.

Normally I'm a little wary of American Apparel clothing, mostly because the quality control is just not there. But I don't have the easiest body to dress, and this looks great. I even bought a second in a different color (and that is not one of my usual shopping habits).

Here are some suggestions on how to style this multifaceted item of clothing:

For Work-
The dress alone may be a little short (depending on your dress code, and it also shrinks a bit in the first wash), so I would pair it with leggings or tights. Add a blazer and pumps, or a cardigan and a belt, for a more polished, professional look.

For Play-
Weekends are all about being laid back and casual. Add some layered necklaces or a chunky bracelet paired with metallic or jeweled flats. For an adventurous statement, nothing says summer fun like a bright pink lipstick. I have found the best selection from YSL, but any brand will do. Just have fun.

For Evening-
When going out for a night on the town, all you need to do is ramp up your accessories. Add a little sparkle with some cubic zirconium studs or dangling earrings (diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but certainly not her wallet's), or a sparkle-y cocktail ring (I have a great one from Express). Slip into some peep toe pumps or strappy sandals and you're all set.

Okay, I admit, adding high heels to the T-Shirt dress does take a little away from the comfort factor, but we can't always have our way, now can we? I am not going to lie and say that a four-inch stiletto is as easy to wear as pair of flip flops, but the truth is, they do look more fabulous.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clean Up Your Act

Despite what many may think, great style does not grow incrementally according to the size of one's wardrobe. More clothes does not equal more fashion sense. Knowing what you own and how it should be worn, is what puts you in a league of your own.

The majority of women are in a fashion rut. We find a few pieces we are the most comfortable in, and use them to create different outfits. I am guilty of this on many occasions, for when I find a dress that I love, I manage to incorporate it in as many looks as possible. As I purchase new items, I tend to favor them over older pieces, and my outfits, in turn, suffer. In order to avoid these predicaments, I have a few suggestions.

1) Try not to wear a pair of shoes more than once during the workweek
Okay, this requires a fairly substantial number of shoes, for which I admit to owning. However, if you are like me, I find that by making myself wear a different pair each day, I not only utilize more of my shoes, but I also am forced to be more creative with my wardrobe. The more shoes I wear, the more outfits I have to create!

2) Think outside the box
Changing up an outfit does not necessarily mean wearing a different shirt or skirt, it can require as little as updating your accessories. Try out a different necklace, or a bolder pair of earrings. Maybe add a belt. You can even channel your inner French chic by throwing on a silk scarf. Outfits without accouterments are blank canvases. Fling on some paint!! Get a little crazy.

3) Re-Organize your closet
I know I know, you think your closet is organized, and maybe you are compulsive like me and it is kept neat and clean. But I'm talking about organize. To like, the millionth degree. If you have seen my closet, you would understand why I am stressing that you rethink your strategy. This is a tough one though: it requires dedication to the cause. But trust me, once you are done, you will realize how much more you have to work with than you than you may have ever perceived.

So here is what I propose:

Take everything out of your closet. The sweaters from the shelves, the dresses and pants from where they hang, do not stop until your closet is completely void of clothing. Once cleared out, start grouping items, first by color, then by likeness (black pants with black pants, black dresses with black dresses, and so forth). While doing this, you should be making a mental note of your inventory, chucking those pieces you will not wear again.

(TIP: Do not be hasty! I have been known to be tempted to throw out clothing I had not worn in years, but found myself-- in rediscovery--wearing them now with much more frequency)

I was not kidding when I said I was compulsive. Personally, I like to see my clothes in color order (rainbow, preferably), grouping items staring with blazers, then long sleeves, short sleeves, skirts, dresses (long sleeve, short sleeve, tank)...etc. I fold sweaters and jeans on the shelves, tank tops are in my dresser, stacked by color. I believe that seeing your clothes along with like colors allows you to truly appreciate all the possible combinations.

If you are feeling adventurous, move on to your shoes. Shoe racks are key, especially the stackable kind (if, like me, you need as much capacity as possible). When I first attempted to organize my massive collection, I grouped my shoes by color and then by likeness. However, I currently have them the opposite, first by kind, then by color. Flats with flats, pumps with pumps, booties, boots, and so on - then as close to color coordination as possible. Wedges are best to keep on the bottom, then flats above, and pumps on the top. I have found that the shoes sit better when stacked this way. To me, fashion and organization is an art. I am an artist.

Now, if you were me, you would be feeling extremely satisfied right now. Give it a chance, I promise you will see a much broader range of possibilities. If you can't, well, then maybe you have a shopping problem, and the only therapy I am familiar with, is the retail kind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flea Markets: Not Just For Floridians

When I hear the phrase "flea market" I conjure up fond memories of visiting my grandmother in Florida, taking day long trips to the indoor flea market. Once there, I would pick up puffy-paint splattered Keds, plastic watches, costume jewelry, and other random goodies I once thought made me cool. As I got older, the allure of the flea market faded, and I sourced my fashion choices from more mainstream retailers.

Between growing up in suburban Maryland and going to college in the Midwest, flea markets were not a common weekend destination. However, upon moving to New York, brimming with a plethora of street fairs and open air flea markets, my latent desire for bargain prices and one-of-a-kind pieces was rekindled.

In the summer, there are what seems like a million street fairs to choose from. Take a short walk around your neighborhood and you'll be sure to encounter at least one. Most of the time, however, the best part of a street fair is....well....the fare. With an abundance of smoothies, fruit, and funnel cake, you can easily inhale your weekly calories in a mere 20 minutes.

One summer, spending a day walking around the Upper West Side with my cousin, we stumbled upon the Greenflea flea market on Columbus Avenue between 76th and 77th Streets. Within a few minutes of our arrival, it was clear to me this was not the kind of flea market I was used to patronizing. Where were the tan grandmothers? Where were the wearers of fuchsia lipstick and fanny packs? What I did find, however, was a wonderful selection of artisan booths, vintage clothing and accessories, and random decorative nick knacks.

On my first visit, I picked up a beautiful little charm necklace by Belle Costes - delicate yet funky - and for only $55. Okay, so that is not super cheap in the grand scheme of things, but for a one of a kind necklace that no one else has or will ever have, I think it's a great deal. And despite having purchased it over two years ago, I still get compliments every time I wear it.

My second trip to Greenflea was with my parents, about a year later. We had wandered upon it and I convinced my mother and father that it would be worth a look. This time, I managed to walk away with another Belle Costes necklace, one with a chunkier antique look, that could be warn two different ways.

A little pricier at $65, I thought it was a steal. Another great vendor at the market, were the leather craftsmen of De Palma. Both my mother and I scored some fabulous handmade leather belts at $75 each.

One of the best things about splurging a little on one-of-a-kind pieces, is that it provides a unique addition to your outfit. And if there is one thing I adore, it is getting the opportunity to answer the question "Where did you get that?" with "A flea market" (but antique store, European country--or any other foreign country for that matter--will do). Nothing says personal style like owning something that is as completely individual as you are.

Finally, on my last visit to the flea market, I came away with my most bargain of finds. All fall season I had been dying for an oversized costume jewelry cocktail ring, and had my eye on this fantastic crystal studded Kenneth Jay Lane Tiger.

Unfortunately, at the ridiculous price of $198 (although I stupidly turned down an $85 price tag at a store where the tag was missing and the sales help were clueless), I was not about to purchase it. Luckily for me, I found the perfect alternative at the flea market, for the low price of $18, and am guaranteed to not spot another sporting my vintage piece.

Although I am not advocating that you spend your life savings on a fabulous wardrobe, I have nothing against a few splurges here and there for items no one else is going to have. However, it is possible to find great unique pieces for a price that is easy to swallow. Personal style is priceless, but while our creativity may be limitless, our credit cards certainly are not.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Perfectly Polished

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a collector.

As a child it was Barbie dolls, Breyer Horses, stuffed snimals, My Little Ponies, and Trolls. As an adult, it has progressed to shoes, accessories, tank tops, and nail polish. While my obsession for finding the perfect polish has evolved in the past four years, I can trace it back to 8th grade, when the Hard Candy brand was introduced into my cosmetic frame of reference.

I remember it clearly: a glossy spread in Sassy magazine (my favorite!), showcasing the beautiful array of pastel colors. I begged my mother to order me the green, blue and purple, convincing her that I just *had to* have them. After weeks of waiting, they finally arrived from California, but to my dismay - after they had already begun being sold in Nordstrom's. I also had colors from Delia's, Wet 'n Wild, and sometimes - in High School - I even coordinated my nails to the current holidays (a variation of greens and whites on St. Patrick's, pinks and reds for Valentine's Day, blues and white during Hanukkah, and so forth).

Once I moved to New York, and discovered my love for frequent manicures and pedicures, my addiction to nail polish resurfaced. If I found a new color I liked, I would proceed immediately to Ricky's or the nearest Duane Reade to purchase it. I have never counted how many polishes are in my collection, but they fill a makeup case, a full drawer in my organizer, and a display shelf.

To me, nail polish is just another accessory. In about a half hour, you can change your look from classic to trendy, preppy to punk - and it's completely non-committal. My recent obsession is a little louder than your average manicure; I'm talking neon nails. Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, Orange: You name it, I've worn it. I suggest heading over to your nearest Ricky's and picking up a bottle of "Mattese" in one of the many neons in their collection.

An instant makeover for $4.99? That's what I call a "bright idea."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wrap it up already!

So here is a trend I'm already over and it has seems to only just begun reaching full swing: the Keffiyeh scarves.

Sure we've all heard the phrase "The Personal is Political" but I don't think that was a commentary on personal style, so I'm a little confused how this political statement has turned into...well...a fashion statement. And not a very cute one at that.

Despite being dedicated to finding my own individual style, I know that it is impossible to not spot a girl in the H&M dress I happen to be wearing, or find myself purchasing a pair of ubiquitous Tory Burch flats (even if mine are in leopard). However, if I had a dollar for every time I caught someone wearing this scarf in one day, I would be one very wealthy woman. Doesn't anyone think it looks like you're wearing a picnic tablecloth around your neck???

Personally, I'm fine with my Marimekko for H&M scarf, and have yet to see anyone else with it.

Skinny Jeans

No, I'm not talking about the pair of jeans that hides in the back of your closet from when you used to be 10 pounds thinner that you keep there just in case you get back to that "goal" weight. I'm talking about what I like to refer to as "denim leggings." What is funny though, is that I never thought twice about jumping on the leggings bandwagon 2 years ago, but when it came to skinny jeans, I was deathly afraid.

I am not going to lie, I have big thighs. I am not sure if I always had big thighs, but I can not seem to remember a day beyond middle school that I did not feel they were larger than I would have preferred. Nonetheless, I dressed them appropriately and never thought twice about it. Until skinny jeans came into the picture.

Now that I think about it, I may have stopped wearing jeans around the time when flared and boot cut went out and skinny took their place. I switched over to dresses and leggings and forgot about the 5 pairs sitting--untouched--in my closet. I kept promising to buy a new pair when I had an extra discount, or I lost a few pounds. I never lost those few pounds.

For some reason, however, last weekend I decided to take a risk. I tried on almost every pair of skinny jeans I saw hanging on the racks at Bloomingdale's, and prepared myself for disappointment. Shockingly, when I put on Seven's "Roxanne" style, I realized I looked cute! My hips and thighs didn't look oversized compared to my ankles and feet! The stretch meant that my legs weren't suffocated by denim! The waist wasn't too tight or too big! It was a skinny jean miracle.

So there I was, two years later, purchasing a pair. And I have to say, I'm more than mildly excited.

EXTRA TIP: To get denim hemmed on a budget, check out tailors on the Lower East Side. Most do it while you wait, and can cost as little as $4!!